30 August 2016

Making sustainability pay

The private sector has a major role to play in achieving the sustainable development goals, argue experts from the Alpbach Laxenburg Group.

©Matthias Silveri | IIASA

©Matthias Silveri | IIASA

The role of the private sector in driving a sustainable future cannot be underestimated, according to experts who met this week as part of the Alpbach Laxenburg Group (ALG) retreat 2016. The ALG, a reflection group of world leaders across the main sectors of global society, including government, business, science, civil society, and the arts, presented their conclusions today as part of the public plenary session of the 2016 European Forum Alpbach and published them in a summary document (PDF).

Not only is the business community vital for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the UN in 2015, but aiming for sustainability in business practices can also prove profitable: consumers flock to innovative companies that are focused on developing sustainable products and new “green” technologies.

“Business has often been viewed as a part of the problem when it comes to the environment, climate, and sustainability. On the other hand, from the business perspective, environmental and sustainability concerns have often been seen as an obstacle to economic growth,” says IIASA Director General and CEO Professor Dr. Pavel Kabat. “Fortunately this paradigm is now starting to change: environment and sustainability concerns are being seen, more and more, as a trigger for innovation in the industry and private sector. The private sector is no longer on a conflicting path with science, government, and regulation. It’s all about how to reconcile innovative growth concepts with environmental sustainability. IIASA is investing its systems analysis approach towards supporting this, one of the most fundamental transitions towards a sustainable future.”

"It is essential to find new transformative models for the efforts of governments and civil society together with the private sector, as emergent properties to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. These models should rapidly incorporate at least the local level,” said Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland and a member of the Alpbach-Laxenburg group, who also took part in the discussions, following a week-long visit to IIASA in Laxenburg.

“Sustainability is more than a bullet point on the corporate social responsibility agenda.  It is a motor of growth and development. Companies need to include this responsibility into their business objectives.  Otherwise we cannot speak of sustainable entrepreneurship,“ says Franz Fischler, president of the European Forum Alpbach.

The ALG meeting took place on 28 and 29 August and included leaders and young innovators from around the world. Participants included: Michael Fürst, senior manager of corporate responsibility at Novartis International; Michael Perkinson, chief of staff to chief investment officer, Guggenheim Partners; Claus J. Raidl, president of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB); and Martin Steinbauer, financial analyst at Black Rock. Full participant list (PDF)

“What’s unusual [about a meeting like this] is that it links you with people whom you may not meet every day, so it’s an occasion of diversity connecting on a topic. Plus, there is something which tends to come out of this sort of event and in this sort of frame and environment, which is innovation,” said Pascal Lamy,  Former Director General, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Honorary President at the Notre Europe- Jacques Delors Institute, in an interview on the IIASA Nexus blog

16.08 IIASA at the European Forum Alpbach

About the ALG

The Alpbach Laxenburg Group, established in 2013, is a global reflection group that aims to address the issues caused by the ongoing global transformation and aid in the creation of sustainable development paths. 

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About the European Forum Alpbach
First held in 1945, the European Forum Alpbach was the first political and intellectual event to take place in a German-speaking country. Today it is one of the leading interdisciplinary platforms for dialogue in the academia, politics, economics and culture in Europe. Through its activities and events, the European Forum Alpbach seeks to promote a democratic society equipped to meet future challenges. www.alpbach.org 

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policymakers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by prestigious research funding agencies in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. previous.iiasa.ac.at

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Last edited: 02 September 2016


Alpbach-Laxenburg Group: New business models for sustainable development

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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